JM Peck is the president of the Southwest Counties Farm Bureau and serves as chairman of the state Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. He ranches with his family near Melrose, Montana, and recently traveled to Washington, D.C. with the Montana Farm Bureau Fly-In.

The planners of our nation’s Capitol envisioned it as an egalitarian place where all corners were open.  Montana Farm Bureau members Gary Heibertshausen, Wes Jensen, MFBF National Affairs Director Nicole Rolf and I discovered this to be true during our Montana Farm Bureau DC Fly-In.

We were welcomed in Washington, D.C. by all three branches of government and traded our snow for rain during our trip.  During our first day we met with Montana’s congressional delegation. We were welcomed by all three and thanked them for their support of some recent wins for Montana agriculture, including the passage of the USMCA Trade Agreement and their introduction and support of the Montana Water Rights Protection Act. We learned about some of the issues Senator Daines has been championing for Montana farmers and ranchers, from trade to water to taxes. Senator Tester was optimistic that permanent legislation would be taken up soon to provide a permanent solution for livestock haulers to ensure our roads and livestock remain safe during transport.  We also discussed the need for improved access to mental healthcare and broadband access in our rural communities.  After a busy day on “The Hill” we toured the Supreme Court and attended a lecture in the courtroom. 

The next day we had the opportunity to meet with the EPA and the USDA.  Again, the door was open and we were welcomed in.  At the EPA we were briefed by an EPA Water Scientist about the new Navigable Waters Protection Act, which will replace the repealed 2015 rule.  They shared with us many of the details of the new regulation and their philosophy behind creating a workable rule that is clear and concise with the goal of protecting our clean waters and provide appropriate oversight. We had a very productive conversation with them about our concerns and the importance of clean water in Montana. This rule is a big win for Montana’s farms and ranches. 

Next we met with many officials from the USDA.  They made it clear that they were there to work for us and support the production of food and fiber in our state and country.  We discussed animal traceability, where they addressed concerns about new electronic tagging programs. They shared with us the objectives of these efforts and the importance of tracking diseases, but admitted that there was much more planning and communication needed before there would be a roll-out of a new traceability program. We shared with them the issues we face around Brucellosis and Chronic Wasting Disease and how a new program must integrate with existing practices. We also discussed the check-off programs and optimism for some on-going issues with them. 

Washington, D.C. is a truly amazing place. It is the home of our democracy and serves as a foundation for our liberty and freedom.  Thanks to Montana Farm Bureau and all our members for sending Gary, Wes and I to represent Montana and Montana agriculture.  As partisan and bitter as the news portrays our government to be, I saw many people working hard to improve the lives of the agriculturalists who help feed the world with an abundant, wholesome and safe food supply.